The Warcasters Dilemma: Focus vs Fury

Several months ago, Phil and Bobb put up some very interesting blogs centered around PP’s flagship game, Warmachine/Hordes. Up until that point, I had been kind of boycotting it because in my eyes it was taking away precious company attention from the giant monsters that stole my heart. But with the durth of any news […]

Profile photo of Nick Harrison By Nick Harrison On April 02, 2012 Posted In Other

Several months ago, Phil and Bobb put up some very interesting blogs centered around PP’s flagship game, Warmachine/Hordes. Up until that point, I had been kind of boycotting it because in my eyes it was taking away precious company attention from the giant monsters that stole my heart. But with the durth of any news on the monpoc front, and a couple of gamers that I respected singing it’s praises, I decided to give it a look see. Lo and behold, I found that it is as rich and deep a game that everyone was saying it was. I spent some time looking over the different figures, and settled on Cryx as the ones that looked the coolest, and then jumped in with both feet.

I’ve now gotten over a dozen games in (all email, unfortunately), and I’ve had time to digest the rules, see how they work in action vs theory, and get a decent amount of experience and fun in the process. During all of this, some views that I initially had have codified, and I wanted to discuss them with the community.

So, the big thing I’ve noticed is the difference between how Warcasters (Warmachine) and Warlocks (Hordes) work. It’s pretty obvious that Warlocks were the second generation rule set. From my understanding, the game has always been about a leader unit running around with big honkin’ robots/beasts. Before there was Hordes, it was a Warcaster and his warjacks. The problem is that the mechanics behind this setup made the player choose between using his spells or making his ‘jacks more potent (or even just nominally effective). At least partially because of this, the game moved more towards a leader and a bunch of unis / solos, with ‘jacks falling into the support role. While still fun, this wasn’t what PP was looking for as the “theme” of their game. So along came Hordes, and the Warlock / warbeast mechanic, where the caster needs to have beasts to be able to cast spells at all, and to build up his spell points, he needs to use his beasts pretty aggressively. It’s a beautiful solution, really. The problem is that it is fully compatible with the Warmachine rules, thus you can have one type of force go up against the other type of force (as has been the case with most of my games). It is this disparity that I want to talk about.

Even the Legions of Death have turned to the power of technology

Warcasters are centered around a stat called Focus. This is their magical ability, what they have to roll to successfully cast an offensive spell, and how many magic points they get each turn. They can use these magic points (just called Focus, although this is separate from the Focus stat) for a number of things. First, they are used to cast spells. Each spell has a cost in focus that must be paid before the effect can take place. For offensive spells, the caster must also hit the targets defense by rolling an attack using his Focus stat. Focus can be used to buy extra melee or ranged attacks, at one Focus per attack. It’s used to boost attack or damage rolls the caster makes (one point of Focus will allow the caster to roll an extra die on whatever he boosts). It can also be used to heal damage on the caster on a one for one basis, and a single focus can be spent to shake off an effect such as being knocked down. Any unused Focus increases the casters armor, also on a one for one basis. These are all the caster centric things that Focus is used for. But it has another very important use. It can be allocated to the caster’s warjacks at the beginning of the turn for them to use to enhance their capability. Double the caster’s Focus stat is called his control range, and he can distribute up to three Focus to each ‘jack in his control at the beginning of the turn. Focus on a ‘jack can be used to buy extra attacks and boost damage, or shake off an effect, similar to the caster. It is also used to allow a ‘jack to make a special attack (throw, slam, etc) or to charge. Warcasters automatically generate a number of Focus equal to their Focus stat at the beginning of the turn, which then needs to be allocated before any figures in the force can start taking their actions.

While the warriors of the wilds tame the power of nature...

Warlocks are centered around Fury, which in many ways is analogous to Focus. They have a Fury stat, which is used both as the maximum amount of magic points they can “generate” at the beginning of a turn, and the number added to a roll to hit with an offensive spell. It’s also used to determine their control range, which, like Warcasters, is double the stat. Fury points are to cast spells, boost attack and damage rolls, buy extra attacks, and shake off effects. So far, pretty much like a ‘caster, but from here, things diverge rather drastically. Instead of adding to Arm, unused Fury can be used to transfer damage done to the ‘lock to a warbeast they control that is in their control area. One Fury will transfer all damage from a single attack to a warbeast. And as a way to say “sorry” for injuring their beasts, a Warlock can spend fury to heal a warbeast on a one for one basis. This is important, because unlike a Warcaster, a Warlock does not automatically fill up his fury pool at the beginning of the turn. Instead, he gets his fury from leeching it off of his beasts in his control area. Beasts generate Fury by boosting attacks or damage, buying additional attacks, casting their anami (which are beast spells), or just riling and getting mad. To do any of these things, a beast needs to be in its ‘locks control area and be forced to do so, either directly by the Warlock, or by another figure that can control the beast. If there isn’t enough fury on a Warlock’s beasts to fill up their fury at the beginning of the turn, they can cut themselves, and generate Fury by inflicting damage on themselves on a one for one basis.

Warbeasts have a Fury stat, which is the maximum amount of Fury they can have on them at a time. They also have a threshold stat, which is used to see if the beast goes berserk. At the beginning of the turn, the Warlock needs to siphon the Fury off of his beasts. If after this, a beast still has Fury on it, it needs to pass a threshold check, or else spend it’s turn attacking the nearest figure with a single boosted attack. The threshold roll is done by adding the Fury still on the beast to the threshold stat, and trying to equal or exceed that roll.

So to keep a Warlock going at full throttle, they need to run their beasts pretty hard, but not too hard, or else risk having the beast run amok. They also have to worry about having their beasts (and thus their main sources of Fury) killed out from under them, although when one of their beasts dies in their control area, they can suck off any Fury on that beast at that time.

An easy way to describe the dichotomy between a Warcaster and a Warlock is that the ‘caster does resource management, while the ‘lock does risk management. The Warcaster can play the longer game, trying to win through attrition, although from my experience, if a game gets to turn five it’s a long one. In general, what this means, though, is that the Warlock gets twice the Fury to use that the Warcaster does every turn. The ‘caster decides if he wants to cast spells, or have his ‘jacks run harder, or just camp on his Focus an hope that the extra Armor saves him. The Warlock gets to use a full Fury to cast spells and boost rolls, etc, while his beasts get to run, charge, boost, etc just as much. It’s this magic point mismatch that has me wondering how balanced things really are. Warlocks also have a lot more options for keeping their beasts running at full strength with their ability to heal them. If you don’t kill a beast that’s breathing down your neck on your turn, odds are it’s going to be hitting you at full strength on his. Warjack damage is more permanent. They can be repaired, but that takes an action, and more importantly, a unit with the repair ability right up next to them. And even then, it’s not a sure thing, as the repair has a roll associated with it to see if it works at all.

What goes better with robots than big guns?

Now, PP has put effort into trying to achieve balance. From what I can see, it seems like a Warmachine force has more access to units and spells that will generate free Focus for the Warjacks, which helps balance out the double Fury that a Hordes force is running around with. Warmachine forces like to steal the souls of the slain and use those as Focus. So on a particularly brutal turn, a Warcaster might start with double their Focus, although more common it’s only a couple of extra. Warcasters also have access to arc nodes, which are items mounted in ‘jacks that let the ‘caster cast spells through the warjack. This greatly increases their threat range, and let’s them play the stand off game. There are some analogous abilities on the Hordes side, although these bio-arc nodes tend to be single use and on units. Warcaster spell lists tend to be larger than a Warlocks, but the Warlock can not only cast their own spells, but the anami of their beasts as well, so I’m not sure this balances things out all that much. Especially since they can cast the spell, and the beast can also cast the spell, each from a different resource reserve.

Beasts like their toys too....

Perhaps the biggest balancing factor is straight from the rules, in that as a Warlock’s beasts die, he loses access to his magic source. And as this is a game of combat, that’s rather expected to happen. In reality, though, this doesn’t come up all that often. Beasts are as tough as Warjacks, so it takes quite an effort to kill one. And if you don’t, it gets to heal. And a Warlock worth his salt will have enough beasts to cover the loss of one or two, and still keep running at full strength. Even the risk management side of things can be worked around. Now, don’t get me wrong, it takes quite a bit of skill to make sure you have just enough Fury on your beast to have a full pool next round without losing control of a beast that’s gone berserk. But it can be done, and once you get that skill level, it’s done almost all the time. Even a berserk beast isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If it’s in the middle of the opponents forces, it’s going to attack one of them. So a Warlock can even plan to have a Berserk beast as part of his battle plan.

Now, I’m not sure if things aren’t balanced, because I’ve won about as much as I’ve lost, and I’ve mostly been playing Warmachine. But the Focus/Fury inequity was a big pill to swallow as I was learning the game. I wanted to start a discussion here to see what other people thought. So what have your experiences been? How about you theory crafters out there? Are things balanced with the rules alone? Are they balanced with a combination of rules and figures? Or are things out of whack and slightly off kilter? Do the Iron Kingdoms stand a chance, or will the Hordes overrun Immoren?

  1. I haven’t played enough to give an opinion on the grander scale, but here’s my two cents.

    Fury is more efficient, point for point. Just like you explained, you double-dip with the beasts and the warlocks where warcasters and warjacks are an either/or proposition. Boiled down to the basics of the mechanics I don’t really see any arguments against it.
    Power field for armor? I’ll take transfers, thanks.
    Auto-regen? I’ll just run more beasts if I run into problems generating Fury.

    The two sides of the coin are more than just those mechanics though. There are units and solos to consider and simple differences in stat lines. Altogether it’s a lot to analyze and, having gotten my fair share of beatings from WM forces while I’m running Hordes, I’m reluctant to close the case one way or the other.

  2. Short answer? “It’s complicated, but I think it’s pretty balanced.”

    Longer answer incoming…

    A printed FURY stat is NOT -visually- comparable to a printed FOCUS stat, since you may use each point of FURY twice — once toward a warlock spell/ability/etc, and once as a warbeast force to charge/boost/etc. A humble FURY stat of 5 is effectively a FOCUS stat of 10 (with a requirement that exactly 5 of that 10 must be allotted to jacks, and a casting to-hit-em value of only 5).

    Warlocks are far better than warcasters offensively, and defensively too in most circumstances. Beasts are better offensively than jacks (because they can more freely boost), and better defensively because they are easier to keep fully functional. Warmachine units tend to be better than Hordes units by a little, and everything on Warmachine side is costed at a bit less for what you get.

    In the end, it’s pretty even. If you build against the nature of the faction (beast-light or jack-heavy), then you get into raw-power problems. It’s easy to see when you are building beast-light and fix it. Jack-heavy tends to show up mid-battle when you see you are losing and don’t know why.

    1. Jeff, how do you mean Warlocks are far better than Warcasters offensively? In melee, casting spells or in the way they synergize with their force(etc)? I see them as pretty even speaking generally… I know most of the casters I usually use are far better at melee than most Warcasters, but then you have exceptions like the Butcher, Terminus, Naaresh, etc. Warcasters can generally be more offensive casting spells, mostly this is due to Arc Nodes but also because Warcasters just have better spell lists. If you compare all comers I think it comes down pretty even, difficult to call.

      1. Skorne and Legion have mock arc-node warlocks…you are right that where arc-nodes apply they are pretty good at putting that focus on the front lines. That’s not power level so much as logistics though. If a warlock can get to a position where their spells are useful, they can more freely expend power.

        In terms of what a warlock can do under duress is what I mean, I suppose. If a warlock is near enemy figures, they hold -some- FURY back (often just a point or two) — but a warcaster in the same situation has to camp nearly all FOCUS to survive in that spot, meaning they are generally wiser (depending on warcaster) to move to a safer spot where they can use some FOCUS safely. Warlocks outgun warcasters…it’s not a matter of stats, just a matter of how powerful transfer is because it lets you keep casting/boosting. In situations where it doesn’t apply they are about even, or at least close enough that calling a winner has no real application afterward.

      2. Even Calaban from Blindwater can make a meat node.

        In most of the games I’ve played when it comes down to the point when the Warcaster/’lock are in a situation where they need the protection of camping Fury/Focus, they are probably in so much trouble they are going to get taken out anyway. It’s more common for me to camp maybe one or two Fury just in case something I’m not seeing gets through, but a lot of the time Warcasters don’t need to because they don’t need to be as close to control their warnouns. Sure there are exceptions, but generalizing…

        I’m not really sure what my point was here. Sort of got lost.

      3. On the camping topic, I’ve not played the WM side enough to really know, but for H, I almost never camp more than 2 Fury and generally only camp 1 as a “just in case” when I’m near the front lines. Of course, I run pMadrak and can skip damage once per game, so that will influence my views on the subject.

        I think camping Focus is going to be generally counter productive. I’ve seen Tim do it with the Butcher to 24 ARM when he knows I’m coming, but even 24 ARM hasn’t saved him. Ultimately, it’s one thing in Focus’ favor, in a way, because you can spend it all without as much risk. 1 Fury for the Warlock could be a huge damage swing (7+), but 1 Focus for the Warcaster is, at the worst, probably only 3-4 points of damage on a turn where he gets caught with his pants down.

      4. Your point was:

        To aggro with warbeasts requires a certain proximity to them, but jacks can get focus then wander off — meaning that as long as you have arc-nodes, warcasters don’t strictly speaking need to move forward with the aggro portion of their army. It’s Bobb’s point too, and I do think it is significant.

        For one thing it naturally encourages the use of blast-capable heavy warbeasts…Legion’s Carnivean has a really nasty spray, as does Typhon (3x even). I find Dire Troll Bombers to be one of Trollbloods best heavies. The Ironback Spitter even. Circle’s Pureblood Warpwolf is pretty scary. This in some ways is the answer to warcasters — the warlock can stand farther back as well if they want.

        But generally the ability to hang back and still operate jacks, if you think about it is single-turn. Any jack that goes too far will not get any focus next turn — you get just that one “leave the nest” maneuver, and then you have a vulnerable advanced jack next turn whether your warcaster comes forward or not. It CAN be a useful thing to do but it’s more gimmick than major advantage.

        If you time it on a turn where you expect the advancing jacks to be lost anyway, I think it has some real value… but what happens when your opponent rolls low and you have a jack standing out there that can’t really take advantage? I suppose that’s some risk management — your warcaster’s health against maybe getting some extra juice out of your jack(s).

      5. Good observation on the defensive value of 1 FURY vs 1 FOCUS, Phil — but it brings up a point in my mind:

        If you camp minimal FURY, the enemy might try for you. They might send everything, and they can really bring whatever is alive and land damage. Even nerf-ball units/solos might tag some damage. It’s dangerous and the enemy controls when they strike more than you do. And even when you don’t die, your side takes all that damage in transfer damage. None is actually negated.

        If you camp minimal (or more) FOCUS, there are a lot of enemy pieces that can’t really hope to damage you even on a good roll. Nerf-balls need not apply…only their hard hitters can really come at you. If you can kill their hard hitters off, you can become near invincible afterward. To large degree you control when you are vulnerable as well. And every point absorbed is just erased — it doesn’t hit a jack instead.

        Camping FOCUS is definitely counter-productive when the enemy figures in range of you can still hurt you. You shouldn’t be there. FOCUS-camping is to wade into weaker enemies and stride around like a tiny god and guard yourself against potshots from mid-power ranged/spell attacks. I certainly think it is better to do in end-game, once all your jacks are scrap.

      6. If you’re getting enough stuff on me to make me burn through more than a couple Fury on transfers, I was in trouble anyway. In a position where I know you’ve got more potentially lethal hits coming my way, I’m not transferring if I don’t have to.

        Ultimately, if you’re in a position where the “nerf-balls” as you call them can swarm me, I did something wrong or you did something terribly right. If you get more than 3 or 4 attacks with a bunch of weenies then I probably deserve to take a loss because I didn’t screen a lane or something.

        However, I still stand by the idea that Fury will save me better than Focus. In the weenie-storm where there are a half-dozen damage rolls for piddly amounts, Focus wins. But I still prefer my Fury to completely remove one big hit from the equation (as far as the big-move Assassination goes) rather than count on deterring the weenies.

        There’s also the deterrent factor of Fury. If you’ve got one or two big swings you can take at me, but you know one or both of them will be transferred, you might not bother (or you might bother specifically to force the transfer, even if it leaves the attacker open on the next turn). But with Focus, you know you have to punch through that Power Field sooner or later, so you might as well go for it now, before I get another turn and decide to camp with more on the following turn. It’s the flip-side to not being able to deter the weenies who will hit you for a pittance over and over.

        Both sides have definite pros and cons and I would guess that we could spend days going back and forth with scenarios. Ultimately it all comes down to the tabletop where dice rule the day.

      7. That’s true to some extent, Jeff. But frequently you can’t bring your whole force to bear on a low Fury camped Warlock, unless it’s pretty much the end game anyway. Perhaps it’s just a testament to Bobb’s skill, but very rarely can I get more that two solid attackers onto his Warlock during any turn. So in that case, those 1-2 Fury means the ‘lock wont be taking any damage, or can spread enough around so that it will survive, and be running at full capacity next turn.

        Conversely, I hardly ever find myself camping much Focus, because if I want to get the offense I want accomplished for the turn, I need that precious resource. If I’m attacking something with a Jack or the ‘caster, I expect it to be dead by the end of my turn. If it’s not, then I don’t expect to survive the retaliation turn with whatever I threw at it.

  3. Interesting write up here Nick. I feel like they Fury and Focus mechanics while at first seem very much in favor of the Warlocks and their Fury, is actually fairly well balanced. Start off with spells… Warcasters just have much better and more spells to choose from than an equivalent Warlock. Warlocks do get access to animi but these can be taken away from them by killing the beast that has that animi (unless of course you have a unit that can cast animi of dead beasts like the Bone Grinders.) Even with the access to animi the spell lists of Warlocks are generally inferior to Warcasters. While they do need to use some of their Focus to “power” their ‘jacks, there are many ways around this, and even if there wasn’t they usually have enough Focus to get the job done. Warlocks can force their beasts as much as they feel is necessary, but they need to stay within CTRL range to do it… a Warcaster can drop Focus on something and it can get out of CTRL range, so Warcasters can generally play further back. And then of course in an attrition game Warlocks lose out because as they lose beasts they lose Fury. While it may seem like the simple solution is to bring more beasts, then you are losing out on other areas you need to bolster AND you have more beasts to control. The ability to transfer damage does seem superior to boost ARM but if all your beasts are maxed out on Fury you will have nothing to transfer to and even if you do transfer, you are destroying one of your assets(or damaging it at least) and if you happen to transfer to a beast that can’t take all that damage then you take anything that’s left over.

    Warcasters can take bunches of Warjacks but they don’t have to(and many Warjacks generate their own focus or can be given “focus like” boosts. Warlocks HAVE to take beasts to get power and a lot of times those beasts serve as nothing more than a Fury battery. Take out a couple Fury batteries and the Warlock is hurting.

    Personally I prefer the Fury mechanic because I find it fits better with the way I like to do generally everything… in the moment, going with the flow… I feel better if I don’t have to plan things out. But when I play a Warmachine faction I feel like everything is more in my control… I’m not waiting to see what happens, I’m planning for definite outcomes. To me they seemed balanced. If you asked me when I first started playing I would have said FURY is way more powerful, but the more games I play I feel like FOCUS might have a slight edge. Very slight, but an edge nonetheless. Mostly it comes down to having more choices.

      1. I find jacks to be more fragile defensively, since they can lose systems and it can be hard to get them back online (especially the melee jacks). It’s hard for a beast to be crippled, since it’s easy to heal off. A jack with focus on it can definitely perform as well as a beast does, at least while it’s unhurt. You pay slightly less for jacks and get slightly less out of them. It’s very fair. Even ENOUGH.

      2. I find the two damage systems fascinating, and very even. Yes, I know beasts can be healed to 100% efficiency for 3 fury, while damage Jacks slowly decay. But Jacks suffer damage more incrementally. Unless you lose the Cortex, Jacks in some ways take damage better…when a beast loses mind/body, it affects all attacks. It’s funny in some ways, to think about the Dire Troll Bomber throwing lighter bombs because Body is crippled (roll 1d6 less on damage rolls). Jacks, on the other hand, suffer losses by system, so you can cripple the left arm, but the right functions just fine…and on most chassis, the melee weapon is on the right, so if just charged that jack, whatever charged is in for some pain.

        It’s such a simple system, really, but I think it captures the difference between steamjack powered golems and magically-bound warbeasts perfectly.

  4. I like that the systems reflect a different view of order. Warmachine is Order…things work, sometimes they work better than others, but for the most part, outside of crippled systems, everything works the same from turn to turn. It’s very predictable.

    Hordes is Chaos. A warlock can bring a TON of pain with a large battlegroup (caster and beasts) on any given single turn. But as the game progresses, the Warlock’s ability to repeat this act decays, regardless of damage inflicted to the battlegroup. In fact, the more damage they take, the more ordered the battlegroup stays.

    The reason is because a Warlock can only leach (think absorb) so many Fury points from his beasts every turn. Frenzied beasts are out of control, and likely to attack friendly forces, or charge out of control. And beasts that don’t frenzy but have leftover Fury on them are limited in what they can do because they can only have a limited amount of Fury forced on them.

    As Jeff says, the relationship between the 2 systems is complicated…I’ve seen lots of proposed changes to one of them, mostly the Warmachine side, intended to bring balance. I think the systems already are balanced, but you have to realize that you can’t play a WM list like it’s a Hordes list.

    However, if you DO want to do that, most factions have ways to Marshall jacks, Drive them, or generate additional Focus for jacks.

    1. The nature of some players is to take a warcaster that isn’t suited to lots of jacks, take no/few units that help manage so many jacks, LOSE with all those jacks, then complain that FURY is over-powered. You can’t match a beast by fielding a jack (generically speaking anyway) — and you aren’t supposed to try. It goes to what Chris said about costing, to some degree:

      Heavy beasts are high cost, high output.
      Heavy Jacks are medium cost, medium output.

      I’d expect 3 jacks ones meant for the task) to kill 2 beasts, or something like that. The fact that you can easily run 3 heavy beasts (at high points) but will generally struggle to power more than 2 jacks (because of FOCUS issues) means you have to look to answering beasts another way. Some units DO answer them well.

      Take Manticore or Slayer, jacks designed to kill heavy warbeasts and singularly threaten camping enemy warcasters. They get 2 focus, charge or boost damage, and boost to hit. They land one big chunk of damage. If you can get 2 on the same heavy beast it can easily die that turn. It’s actually pretty efficient — 3 or 4 focus to those jacks (1 or 2 to each), one enemy beast dead. It’s when people try to take out the really high ARM enemy heavy beasts with a Seether or Hydra that I cringe. Those figures do not have the damage output to kill heavies quickly.

      I feel a lot of complaints come from the direction of wanting to be dismissive of what the heavy warbeasts represent — something you’ll need to throw multiple things at to bring down, and until you do it is going to be outpacing you offensively. But when you do, you cripple the enemy in a way they cannot cripple you.

  5. On the meta side of things, beasts are just much more reliable than Jacks. Most of the time, the beast is going to hit what it’s going after, because it has the Fury to boost, where as the Jack is more likely to be running thin on Focus, and you have to make the decision to try and hit without boosting so you can get the boosted damage (or extra attacks), or boost the hit roll and hope you get lucky on the damage roll. This is even worse for casters, who now have to decide if they’re going to try and cast two (or more) spells (with some Focus allocated to jacks), and hope that they hit, or boost the attack and only get the one spell off. I’d personally feel much better playing for the longer game if the games tended to last longer. But with such high offense out there, it’s really hard to make them last. Particularly when you throw scenarios into the mix, which tend to encourage the forces to get up in each other’s faces.

    Thus far I feel that most of the balance is attained in the actual figures available to each side, which is a testament to PP’s design team. The larger the pool of figures, the harder that becomes, so I’m afraid at some point something will get through that will totally tip the scales. The other problem with that scheme is that it limits force construction, but then, that’s more of a general problem with any balancing method. As has been mentioned, the rules force a Warcaster to generally take fewer jacks than a Warlock takes beasts, both for efficient use of resources.

    1. Good summary, Nick. And I think it shows that the systems are aptly named.

      As a Hordes player first, I’m used to having an alpha strike turn, one where I can charge most of my battlegroup and land a maximum number of boosted attacks. Playing Warmachine, I find that I simply can’t use that strategy, because focus is limited. But that’s because it’s Focus…it’s designed to FOCUS power into a smaller number of areas. Fury is designed to have that alpha strike…but as I said above, you have a hard time keeping control, and even if you do, you can’t manage that kind of turn again. IN contrast, the WM force gets to apply that level of direct focus every turn.

      So while a beast can charge, and land 2 more maybe even more double boosted attacks, a Jack is mostly limited to 1 charge and 1 double boosted attack. Jacks with two melee weapons can manage a second, single-boosted attack, or buy an additional non-boosted attack. Seen that way, Jeff’s estimation that 3 jacks=output of 2 beasts seems to be right on.

      1. Why couldn’t you do that alpha strike the next turn? Is it because you over-forced your beasts, and some of them will be going berserk? Or is it that you’ve lost some beasts, and just don’t have them around to attack again?

        In the first case, yes, you don’t have to same sustained hitting power that the jacks would have, but I’ll bet that the hitting power you do have left is probably comparable to the fully Focused up jacks could do on their second turn. Plus if you played it right, those beasts that are succumbing to their Fury (which isn’t guaranteed) are likely attacking the enemy instead of friendlies.

        In the second case, the jack player is in exactly the same boat, as whatever her threw at the beasts on his alpha strike is likely in no shape for a second turn of combat.

        Because this is a game of degrading performance with damage, who hits first is such a key factor. And if you’re not getting to hit first, you have to limit what can be hit, so you can have something to counter attack with.

        And, again, perhaps a testament to your skill Bobb, but the number of times you’ve even had to make a threshold check for your beasts averages less than one a game. Or at least that’s my perception, at any rate. :)

      2. That FURY is usable for an “alpha-strike” …basically borrowing offense potential from the next turn to hit harder this turn… makes it soooooo different from jack-allocated FOCUS. Unless you are barely running any jacks (maybe 2 heavies and nothing else) and throw 3 FOCUS in each one every turn, it can be difficult to even run jacks at their normal maximum.

        “…if youโ€™re not getting to hit first, you have to limit what can be hit, so you can have something to counter attack with.”

        That’s exactly how I look at it too, Nick. If you can’t alpha strike or at least hit hard, you send small waves (bad targets) and come in behind them with your real stuff to retaliate. It tries to coerce the enemy to do the same in counter, and that’s where Warmachine generally trumps Hordes with slightly less specialized units who can be that small wave effectively against all comers. There are a lot fewer nerf-balls in Warmchine than in Hordes.

      3. Legion has VERY good fury management assets. Shepherd and Forsaken can drop a full heavy down to zero Fury easy, and both are cheap…and the Forsaken becomes a walking bomb to boot. I’ve run into issues running other factions, but at the same time, I tend to lean toward those lists that come with Fury management. Baldur, for instance, runs constructs, which can’t frenzy, and pKaya can sooth her beasts.

        Then again, there’s reasons why I play Hordes more than WM, and when I do play WM, I use Marshals and jacks that have Powerful attack. I like my offense furious and in big doses.

  6. I can’t exactly contribute to this yet (on my first Journeyman!) but I wanted to say that everything said here is well-articulated, fascinating, and exciting. Great discussion. It’s a pleasure to be learning this game with such minds ๐Ÿ˜€

    1. Steven, one thing to keep in mind is that the game has a huge range of options. Give me and Jeff the exact same lists, and I think you’ll find that playing against us each in turn, you’d get a very different experience. Even within the same list, there’s a lot of options as to what you can do and succeed at. Part of the fun I’ve had with this game is reading strategies and combos used by others, and then trying to fit them in with the things that I like to do.